You are here

Chinese art & timelines: from imperial dynasties to Maoist propaganda

1 post / 0 new
Aileen Level
Topic replies: 22
Topic Posts: 3
Aileen Level's picture
Chinese art & timelines: from imperial dynasties to Maoist propaganda

Lesson plan for 7th grade: linking medieval China to the modern era



Grades 6 through 8: Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills

-Chronological and Spatial Thinking

1. Students explain how major events are related to one another in time.

2. Students construct various time lines of key events, people, and periods of the historical era they are studying.

-Research, Evidence, and Point of View

1. Students frame questions that can be answered by historical study and research.

2. Students distinguish fact from opinion in historical narratives and stories.

3. Students distinguish relevant from irrelevant information, essential from incidental information, and verifiable from unverifiable information in historical narratives and stories.

4. Students assess the credibility of primary and secondary sources and draw sound conclusions from them.

5. Students detect the different historical points of view on historical events and determine the context in which the historical statements were made (the questions asked, sources used, author’s perspectives).

-7.3 Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the civilizations of China in the Middle Ages.


Goals: Students will connect their study of Chinese dynasties and the mandate of heaven to more modern times and will create visual timelines showing the progression. They will develop an understanding of what came between the fall of the last dynasty and the present. Students will analyze traditional art and contrast it to propaganda posters, examining point of view and goals of the images.  (This lesson continued a unit on the history of Chinese government & the dynasties.) This lesson will take three class periods.


Day One:

  • Opening activity: Chinese dynasty song. Students will watch the video and then sing along, refreshing their memory of the dynasties (as well as republic & communist era) and the order in which they appeared.
  • Using the China Online Museum, students will identify artworks from each major dynasty and the republican period.  What characterizes the art of each period?  What is the purpose of the pieces they identify? What is the medium of each artwork?
  • Students will create visual timelines incorporating several key features: the date of each dynasty, the key advances and characteristics of each dynasty, and representative art from each time period. Timelines may be created either online or on paper using the classroom art supplies. This step may be done individually or in pairs.
  • Each individual or team will share their finished product with at least 3 other teams/individuals.
  • Several student volunteers will come up to the front of the room to share their projects with the whole class. Why did they choose the art they selected, and how does the project reflect the dynasties?


Day Two:

  • Opening: BBC video: What Was China’s Cultural Revolution? The video will be a refresher about Mao and the effects of the Cultural Revolution. (Alternatively, it could be done as an intro if a class has not previously studied Mao.) Discuss the video.
  • Students will read passages from the Little Red Book. Ideally, the class would have at least one physical copy of the book so that students can see its size, the cover design, and the book’s layout. Classes can use pdf versions (available at the link above).
  • Different groups will read different passages, either as individuals or in small groups. The various teams will then jigsaw to discuss, compare, and contrast the various passages.
  • Discussion questions: How could the book and the cult of Mao lead to violence and the upending of cultural traditions? Why use children as foot soldiers in the Cultural Revolution?


Day Three:

  • Opening: History Channel video: Mao Zedong/ Cultural Revolution. Why destroy the “Four Olds”? Discuss.
  • Students will examine propaganda posters from the Cultural Revolution era. What is propaganda? What characterizes the art of this period?  What is the purpose of the pieces they identify? What message is sent by these pieces?
  • As individuals or in small groups, students will select a collection of images that represent this era. Why did they pick each image? What is its point of view and goal? Each team will share its selection with at least 3 other teams.
  • Teams will add the Communist era to their timelines, including images from their Cultural Revolution selection and describing the key characteristics of this era.



  • Students will write a paragraph summarizing the timeline of Chinese political history and describing the evolution of Chinese art. How does one link to the other?
  • Early finishers can examine modern-day Chinese political art.